CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Two years ago, Republicans swept Democrats into a small minority in New Hampshire’s state Senate and House. The results of Tuesday’s election flipped that around.
House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli said Wednesday preliminary counts show Democrats won 217 House seats and Republicans 177, with six races still to be decided. If Republicans were to win all six, Democrats will be in the majority again, she said. That would be at least a 115-seat gain for Democrats in the 400-member chamber.
Norelli, of Portsmouth, plans to run for House speaker and faces a challenge from Nashua Democrat David Campbell. Norelli served as speaker the four years Democrats controlled the House.
Campbell declined to comment on his strategy to win the House’s top job, but Norelli said she’s confident she has the votes to reclaim it. She said she has worked for eight months to recruit Democratic candidates and then help them with their campaigns.
‘‘I think I am well positioned to be the next speaker of the House,’’ she said.
The winner would succeed Mont Vernon Republican Bill O'Brien, who treated Democrats largely as irrelevant because of their small numbers. He also was a lightning rod for conservative issues ranging from repealing gay marriage to championing a law barring employers from negotiating labor contracts that require workers who don’t want to join a union to pay a share of the union administrative costs, called an agency fee.
Norelli said she thinks voters did not like the acrimonious tone at the Statehouse under O'Brien.
‘‘We need to do what everyone says we need to do and that is to focus on the economy and jobs,’’ she said.
O'Brien congratulated Democrats on their victory and indicated he will not seek the job as minority leader. He said he will work with the new House Republican leader on delivering a low tax, job-friendly state that maximizes personal freedoms. O'Brien said he also planned to rebuild his law practice.
The secretary of state’s office was working on a final breakdown of House seats.
Republicans retained control of the Senate, but lost six seats. Their margin is 13-11 instead of the 19-5 margin they enjoyed until a senator resigned last spring to run in a different district.
Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, said Wednesday he is seeking re-election to head the chamber and was the unanimous choice of his caucus.
Bragdon said he has worked with Norelli, Campbell and Democratic Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan, who was Senate majority leader until being swept out of office in 2010.
‘‘Any of the three, I have a relationship with,’’ he said.
Norelli also said if she’s chosen speaker she would have no trouble working with Bragdon or Hassan.
‘‘I think Peter is a very reasonable person and I certainly wouldn’t have any problem working with him,’’ she said.
House Republicans meet Nov. 15 to nominate a speaker, while the Democrats pick a candidate on Nov. 17. The Legislature is sworn in and organizes on Dec. 5. Unless a coalition is formed of Republican and Democratic members in each chamber, the majority party’s nominee traditionally becomes House speaker and Senate president.
Democrats won control of the House in 2006 and kept it until the 2010 election, ending a drought dating back to 1922 when the party had last enjoyed a majority in the chamber.